Saturday, August 20, 2011

//Log Date: 2281-10-29 11:50//

<<UserID:Webb>> It’s good to finally be off the Long 15. Not that Route 164 is all that different in scenery, but at least I’m heading in a different general direction. 

I woke up this morning with a little stiffness, and a good amount of pain from the ghoul’s delicate attentions, but nothing unexpected, and the wounds look pretty clean so far, no signs of radiating discoloration or more than average swelling -- knock on wood. It took another shot of localized Med-X to get me up and moving, but, all things considered, I think we got off fairly light.
ED-E’s looking more chipper too. I took some time and hammered his frame back into shape, then put in a few new rivets to reinforce the damaged welds. I’d say I did a pretty fair job, right, eyeball?
<<UserID:ED-E>> 010100110111010101100010011100110111010001100001
<<UserID:Webb>> I’ll assume that was a “thank you”.
The trip back down the Long 15 from Primm was an uneventful and quiet trip, aside from chasing off some coyotes picking over the remains of the dead around the patrol station. By the time I hit Route 164 and turned east, the sun was high enough in the sky that it wasn’t shining directly in my eyes, but I was still glad for the sunglasses I picked up back in Goodsprings, as there’s a wicked glare coming off the sand in the dry lake.
Different direction or no, however, Route 164 has proved just about as hospitable as any other road in Nevada so far. Not long after getting onto the 164, I spotted something jutting out of a dune off the road to the south. I hesitated for a moment before leaving the road, with visions of yesterday’s ghouls lurking in my forebrain, but ED-E’s scanners came up clear, and I couldn’t see anything moving out there, so I eventually got my ass in gear and hopped off the road to check it out.
It turned out to be the husk of an old plane, of all things. I’ve seen a few crashed planes back west in the service, and I even watched a pre-war holovid once in Vault City that actually had footage of one flying, but this is the first time I’d really gotten close to one. 
It was mostly rusted out, and it was smashed into several segments from when it crashed into the desert centuries ago, but it was still incredibly impressive. I can’t even imagine what it must have been like to be able to step onto one of these things and soar off into the sky.
Ah well. Back in the present, the skeleton of the plane had been pretty well picked over by other prospectors. I did a bit of digging around in the dune and turned up a few broken munition crates with some salvageable ammo inside, but otherwise it was just a sightseeing tour.
I’m glad I took the time, however, because it let me easily avoid a rather obvious ambush along Route 164.
As I left the crash site, I angled northeast back towards the road and came back up the dunes just about where some ruins straddled the road -- maybe a pre-war fueling station? Some sort of trading post? The buildings were too far gone to tell.
Anyway, I spotted some movement as I crested the hill back to the road and dropped down to watch. The ruins were crawling with -- what else, with a perimeter this sloppy? -- Jackals, who had taken up positions inside the walls. They were watching for traffic headed east or west, clearly, but had given no thought to someone coming in from a direction other than the road itself, because, while their cover was decent protection from anyone on the 164, they were all in plain sight from where I was crouched. None of them were even looking my way.
It’s almost unsporting. I thought about all the Jackals I’d killed with Jess in our unit back west, and the memory left a bad taste in my mouth. I was almost ready to creep back down the dunes and just leave them to their misery, I think, but then another memory came back, of that thighbone roasting on the spit in the hills east of Primm, and I thought about all the travelers that might still head this way, so I hunkered back down and lined up the repeater’s sights on the Jackal closest to me.
The whole firefight lasted less than half a minute. When ED-E burned a hole through the last of them, I think he was still trying to figure out where the shots were coming from.
At least the greasy sons of *Expletive Deleted* had a decent cache of ammo squirreled away, even if all of their gear was in terrible shape, so it wasn’t a total loss. I even found some actual honest-to-god grenades in a locked crate that surrendered to a little tickling with a bobby pin and screw-driver. Those little beauties might come in handy.
Heh. If the idiots had actually kept them out rather than under lock and key, that whole scrap might have gone very differently.
Probably not, though. *Expletive Deleted* Jackals...
A little further down the road, I ran into more of the local color. A young man was sitting in the shade of a cactus just to the month, sobbing softly and doing an absolutely sickening job of trying to bandage a wound on his upper arm. 
I approached cautiously, covering him with my revolver, but he was so intent on his arm and trying to tie off the bandage with one hand and his teeth that he didn’t even notice me until I was standing over him and cleared my throat. There was one of those bulky Colt 6520 pistols, the kind chambered for 10mm rounds, lying in the dust near him -- he must have dropped it there before beginning his attempt to embarrass four millennia’s worth of medical science -- but he was so wrung out that he didn’t even go for it. 
His eyes rolled up towards me, and, when he saw the revolver in my hand, he just slumped forward with a wail that somehow reminded me of the hopeless sounds little Callie would make when she couldn’t sleep at night. He told me to go ahead and get it over with, and then made some remark about how his lucky necklace was anything but.
I stared at him, nonplussed, for just a minute, and then I holstered my revolver and crouched down next to him, kicking his pistol well out of reach just to be safe. I told him to shut up for a minute and just let me take a look at his arm, and he obliged on both counts.
He’d been shot through the meat of his bicep. It was still bleeding at a good clip, and I’m sure it hurt like hell, but it has missed the bone and major arteries and the bullet had passed clean through. I told him as much, then followed up with the fact that I was a doctor, and I told him I could get him patched up good as new if he could hold still for me.
He nodded, then bit down on his knuckles as I poured some more of my dwindling supply of whiskey over and through the wound. I dug around in my bags and came up with what I wanted -- two female sanitary napkins, scavenged out of a dispenser in the restroom in that patrol station on the Long 15. I put one at each end of the wound, and told the boy -- who eventually told me he was named Tomas -- to put pressure on the one he could reach while I shook out the tangle of cloth he’d been using as a bandage and tied it neatly and tightly around the pads and his arm.
He was still wincing from the pain, so I told him I’d trade him a shot of Med-X for some of his ammo. He agreed, and counted me out two dozen 10mm rounds from his vest pockets, after which I gave him the injection in his arm.
As he began to collect himself, I asked him what had happened. His story was rambling but seemed genuine, perhaps more so because of how obviously confused he was about the whole incident. Apparently, he had met a girl a few days ago, and the two of them had been traveling together when suddenly she turned a gun on him and demanded that he turn over his caps.
It’s not an unfamiliar story, I suppose, predators like that tying on with someone for protection for a few days and then robbing them once their usefulness runs out or they find better prospects. What WAS odd, however, was that she didn’t want his spending caps -- she wanted the ones he wore around his neck on a string, his so-called “lucky necklace”. When he balked at this, she’d opened fire, hitting him in his arm, and he claimed only blind luck had enabled him to pull his pistol and shoot her before she could finish him off.
At this point, he pulled the necklace off in disgust and tossed it to me, saying he didn’t even want the thing any more -- I could keep it, if I wanted, for helping him out.
I looked at the necklace curiously and blinked when I saw that the caps on it were more of those Sunset Sarsaparilla caps with the blue stars on them. That crazy old man Holmes had been right -- people apparently WERE willing to kill for the stupid things!
I slipped them off the string and stuffed them into a side pocket of my satchel, then told Tomas to stay sitting where he was for a while longer until his head stopped spinning before getting up to move on. He agreed weakly, thanked me again, and settled back into the shade as best he could, his eyes closing.
I shook my head, staring at him. Poor kid. He’s not going to make it if he stays out here in the Mojave unless he stops being so damn trusting. I went and got his pistol, pulled the clip out of it, and then put both the pistol and the clip nearby so he’d see them when he woke, then got moving again.
About fifty yards down the road, I spotted the body of the girl laying crookedly among some rocks beside the road, a pistol still clutched in her hand and the left side of her face drooping inward from a gunshot wound. The pistol was a 6520, just like the kid’s. I was happy enough with my revolver, but the Colt looked to be in pretty good shape, so I stashed it in my pack to sell or trade and went through her pockets. In addition to the ammo I was expecting and a scattering of normal caps, I found two more star caps in a separated buttoned pocket on her vest. I guess Tomas was telling the truth after all.
I’m back on the 164 again now, still heading east, and I can see what has to be Nipton coming up ahead of me. No sign of life that I can see from here, but there sure is an awful lot of smoke. Could be tanning fires if its a trading town, sure, but... after reading that journal and listening to what that ranger said, I don’t have a good feeling about this.
Wait a minute... something’s moving. It’s a man, coming this way. ED-E, get ready.
<<UserID:ED-E>> 010101000110100001101001011100110010000001110101
<UserID:Webb>> What the hell? He’s waving his arms in the air and whooping like a crazy person. Doesn’t look armed, though. What the--
<<Unidentified Male>> YEEEEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH! Who won the lottery? I DID!
<<UserID:Webb>> Stop right there! Don’t come any cl--
//Recording Ends//

Thursday, August 11, 2011

//Log Date: 2281-10-28 20:07//

*Burning wood crackling.*

Okay, I’ve got the water boiling, and I’ve administered enough Med-X that I should be able to get the stitches in place without too much discomfort. Just got to give it a minute to kick in.
Ooof... my leg and hip are a mess. ED-E and I were in a hell of a spot this afternoon. When I kicked out the door of that little shanty lab in the irradiated crater, there were no fewer than five feral ghouls trying to claw their way in. 
I got lucky off the bat, and the door caught one of them full on the chin as it fell outward, snapping its jaw clean off and knocking the ghoul to the ground. Things went downhill from there, however. One of the big ghouls took a round of buckshot to the torso and just kept on coming, swatting me right off my feet and landing me ass-deep in one of those murky pools. I barely had time to register the manic ticking of the PIP-Boy’s Geiger counter, though, because he and one of his buddies were wading in after me.
The other two were focused on ED-E, who was doing his best to bob and weave on his repulsors while firing up his laser array. He managed to blow off the leg of one the ghouls below the knee, but the other closed on him and gave him a solid blow that made a horrible crunching noise and sent him spinning out of sight behind the shanty lab. The upright ghoul went stalking after him.
I had to see to the two in front of me before I could worry about ED-E, though. Without time to get all the way back to my feet, I knelt in the foul-smelling water and pulled the lever-action shotgun up just as the ghoul that had swatted me came into arm’s reach again. I fired with the barrel practically resting under its chin, and the ghoul’s throat caved in while a gout of rancid bone and gray matter exploded out of the back of its brainpan.
I’ve never had much cause to use scatterguns myself before this little expedition into the Mojave, but I’ve done my share of post-combat autopsy reports on victims of birdshot and buckshot, and I can tell you right off that they’ll leave an exit wound big enough to stick your hand through -- with your fingers spread wide, no less.
The other ghoul, seeing its comrade crumple into the pool, pitched its head back and let out an ear-splitting shriek -- of rage, hunger, pure aggression or, god help me, sadness, I’ll never know. It gave me enough time to push all the way to my feet, work the lever-action, draw a bead, and fire... only to have the hammer make a pitiful clanging noise as it came down crooked, jamming the action without firing a shot.
I stared stupidly at the firearm for a split second, then reacted instinctively as the ghoul finished its scream and leapt forward again, swinging the useless shotgun like a club. The damn thing snapped in two as it connected with the ghoul’s side, and, grimacing, I followed up on my momentum as the ghoul staggered sideways by jabbing the jagged edge of the barrel deep into its torso, just below the ribcage.
The creature howled again, but much lower and more pitifully as it scrabbled ineffectually at the stock of the shotgun protruding from its side, as air and viscous blood hissed and bubbled out of the wound. I pulled the revolver from the makeshift holster on my hip and put a mercy round through the thing’s temple, then bounded back up out of the pool and onto the path in the direction I’d last seen ED-E.
Just before I reached the corner of the shack, I heard another scream, and the ghoul that had chased after ED-E came pinwheeling backwards in my direction, smoldering from numerous laser burns and with portions of its shredded clothing actually on fire.
ED-E, with a large dent in his side and several of his sensor antennae either bent or snapped clean off, came floating after it, relentlessly firing until the ghoul was down and all sign of movement had ceased.
I let out a long breath, smiled, and was just about to call out to ED-E when searing pain bloomed in my leg. I looked down just in time to see one of the ghouls -- the one that had had its leg blown off by ED-E -- sinking its fingers into the meat of my calf, an instant before it yanked back on its newfound grip and pulled me off balance. 
I tumbled to the ground, flailing wildly for some purchase to pull myself away from the wretched thing, but it pulled itself up determinedly and dug its teeth into my left hip, biting clean through my clothes and into the flesh.
Yelping with pain -- I’m not too proud to admit it -- I managed to get my fingers back around the handle of my revolver and fired a round into the thing’s eyesocket before it had time to make too much of a meal of me.
Gritting my teeth against the pain in my calf and hip, I kicked my way out from underneath the dead ghoul. Fortunately, for all their strength they don’t weigh much -- they’re basically corded muscle and leather wrapped around dry bones -- and I was able to extricate myself from the tangle with the corpse without too much trouble.
Favoring my wounded leg heavily, I limped over to ED-E and, leaning on him for support, we made our way back east out of the radiated pools before any more ghouls caught wind of us.
Once my heartbeat slowed and the air smelled clear again, I realized that the nausea I was feeling wasn’t just adrenaline withdrawal. A scan of myself with the PIP-Boy’s diagnostics revealed that I had received such an appalling dose of radiation that I’d be lucky to make it through the day with my hair and teeth intact if I didn’t do something quickly. 
First, I stripped off my soaked clothes and washed myself as best I could with my remaining clean water, then pulled on some dry clothes from the bottom of my pack. I found some shade under a mesquite tree and hooked myself up to a Rad-Away drip, sitting and trying to mop out my wounds at least temporarily while it slowly scrubbed my system of the rads. The stuff goes through me like cheap booze, but I’ll take frequent runs to the latrine over radiation poisoning any day of the week. 
With the drip connected, my ability to tend to my cuts and gouges was limited, so I finished swabbing them out, looped bandages around the worst of them to keep them at least partly covered, and promised myself I’d see to them more thoroughly later on.
I may not keep a lot of promises to myself, but at least now I can say I’m keeping that one. Jess would never have believed it.
I woke up a few hours later and realized that I must have nodded off while waiting for the drip to finish. Sure enough, my bladder felt like I’d drunk the better part of Lake Mead, so I pinched off the tubing, unhooked the empty Rad-Away bag, pulled the needle out of my arm, and thanked the mesquite tree for its shade by giving it a generous watering.
I yanked my boots back on -- I hate wet boots, especially irradiated wet boots, but it’s better than burning off the soles of your feet on the sand and asphalt -- made sure ED-E was still functional, and started north again back into Primm.
This time, I stayed on the road the whole way.
When I reached Primm, I tracked down Meyers and gave him the pardon, then followed him into the casino. I made some half-hearted introductions, then wandered off amidst the cheering to refill my water canteen and bottles and as much clean -- or relatively clean -- linen as there was left in the casino.
Once I was finished, the citizens of Primm were filling Meyers in on recent events or gradually drifting out of the casino and back to their long-neglected homes. I walked out among them, limping out towards the wall around the town, and got a little fire going so I could boil up some water. 
ED-E’s going’s to need some repair work, too, but he’s not at risk of infection, so I’m going to triage myself first in line and look after him in the morning. No offense, eyeball -- you did good work today.
<<UserID:ED-E>> 010101010111001101100101011100100010011101110011
<<UserID:Webb>> Hmm, leg’s numb enough now that I should be able to suture the worst of the wounds without passing out, but that damn Med-X is making me a little woozy. Let’s see...
*Canvas rustling.*
There we go. Mentats. These’ll clear the haze.
*Crunching and chewing sounds.* 
Hate to dose myself like this, but even though Primm now has a sheriff, a populace that has returned to their homes, and a casino that’s gradually being aired of the stench of weeks of seclusion, they still don’t have anyone I’d trust more than myself to stitch me back together.
Okay, good. Good good good. Seems like those mentats are kicking in. No more wooziness. Hell, I feel like I could see in the dark.
Good good good. Needles, clamps, forceps, and hemostats are boiled, and I’ve swabbed all the bite and claw wounds with alcohol. Wish I had some iodine. Could really use some iodine. Wonder if there are any unlooted hospitals in the Mojave? Have to look. Try to find some pre-war maps, maybe, get an edge over the other scavvers. 
Something for later, though. For right now, have to get on with surgery. God, I could do this all night. Going to need both hands, though, so I’ll shut off the PIP-Boy for now.
Signing off. Off off off.
//Recording Ends//

Friday, August 5, 2011

//Log Date: 2281-10-28 13:26//

<<UserID:Webb>> Oh god... oh god... okay, I don’t think they...

*Loud metallic banging noises.*
Jesus! They found us! They must have seen us come in!
*Banging continues.*
They’re going to come right through the door! There’s no way that thing is going to hold -- what’s it made of? Tinfoil?
<<UserID:ED-E>> 010101010110111001101001011101000010011101110011
<<UserID:Webb>> Shut up, I’m trying to think.
*Banging continues.*
Gah! We need to reinforce it! Eyeball, help me drag some of this furnitu- HOLY CHRIST! ANOTHER ONE!
<<UserID:ED-E>> 010011110111000001100101011100100110000101110100
<<UserID:Webb>> Damn it, okay! Okay! Stop beeping at me! 
Whew... Looks like this one was already dead. Aaaand wearing normal clothes. Must have been a non-feral...
Poor bastard. He’s pretty torn up. I wonder what-
*Whirring and clanking.*
<<Unidentified Synthetic>> Time for your operations, gentlemen! The doctor is currently indisposed, but I assure you-
<<UserID:Webb>> WHERE THE *Expletive Deleted* DID THAT COME FROM?!
<<UserID:ED-E>> 010010000110111101110011011101000110100101101100
*Gun shots and laser fire, followed by a loud boom and the sound of falling debris.*
<<UserID:Webb>> Good god, what the hell was going on in this place? There’s a ghoul that’s been hacked to pieces, food and water that are making my PIP-Boy’s Geiger counter tick like mad, and a Mr. Handy that... what... he must have tried to modify to work as a medical assistant? 
That clearly went well...
What on earth could he have been trying to-
*Metallic banging resumes.*
Christ! The door!
*Grunting noises and the scraping sound of objects being dragged across a metal floor. The banging continues, but muted.*
Okay... okay... good. Let’s take stock.
First off, Webb, make a note: detours are a BAD idea. So is altruism. You may have gotten those ants wiped out on your way back down the Long 15 from the Outpost... AND cleared out that cave of nightstalkers... but you sure as hell didn’t need to keep ranging off the road to look for other threats.
Jesus, the nightstalkers... they were bad enough. I’d only heard horror stories around merchant campfires in the Mojave, but they were as terrifying as I’d been led to believe. 
After mopping up those ants -- a fairly simple task, as ED-E and I were able to pick off the ones on the road from range before they’d even gotten close to us -- I spotted a cave up the hill to the south and figured I’d give it a look before heading back north. No sense in killing the ants just to have caravaners dying to something else, right? ED-E’s sensors picked up multiple small objects moving around up there, so I figured it might be a pack of coyotes.
Well, I was half right.
Literally, half right. The damn things look like someone sewed a rattlesnake’s head and tail onto a coyote’s body. We were already almost at the cave entrance when I realized I should have just stayed on the road. Half a dozen of the things came boiling up out of the cave, and the only reason I’ve lived long enough to get stuck in this current death trap is because I was backpedaling while firing my repeater so intently that I actually tripped and fell backwards down the hillside.
The scrapes and contusions from the fall earned me enough time to keep firing, however, as the nightstalkers had to take a longer path down to me, and ED-E and I were able to lay down enough panicked fire to kill the last of them before they finally reached me.
A good thing, too -- as I looked the corpses over, I noticed their fanged mouths were dripping with venom. THAT would have ruined my day right quick. I pulled out a few empty syringes and drained the venom glands for later study, then, since I’d already gone to the trouble of killing the things, I poked around in the cave a bit and turned up a few bits of salvage on some other folks who hadn’t been fortunate enough to fall down a hill before the nightstalkers reached them, including...
Hah! That reminds me! Eyeball, do you still have that lever-action shotgun we found, or did you lose it when-
<<UserID:ED-E>> 010001100110100101110010011001010110000101110010
<<UserID:Webb>> Great! Great.. Okay.. let’s get this thing loaded. It’s not in great shape, but it ought to give me a better chance than anything else I’ve got for close-range firefights, and those fellows knocking on the door are going to be as close range as it gets when we make a break for it.
Ferals... ugh. Like I’ve said before, I’ve got nothing against ghouls, but some of them are just so far gone thanks to their wasting disease that they’re little more than animals. 

Less than, even, as at least animals seek food and shelter. Feral ghouls just want to bash your face in, then move on to the next bashable face.
We were heading north but keeping to the west of the Long 15, just to check for any further threats to caravans, when a pack of ferals reared up between us and the road. Backpedaling had worked against the nightstalkers, but this time it just forced us into a green glowing hellscape of radiated pools. I spotted a shack across a rickety walkway over the pools and made for it, the ghouls right on our heels.
And that’s where we’re trapped now, with the ferals clawing at the walls. I’ve already gotten what’s probably a mutation-inducing dose of rads just from the dash through the pools, but it seems like a waste to hook myself up to a Rad-Away drip now when I’m just going to get ripped to pieces as soon as those ghouls batter through the door, and, as they’re basking in the glow of the rads outside, it’s not as if they’re likely to get bored and toddle off before I lose my hair and keel over in here.
Okay. Okay. No sense putting off the inevitable. ED-E, you ready?
<<UserID:ED-E>> 010000010110011001100110011010010111001001101101
<<UserID:Webb>> All right.

*Click of a lever-action.*
Here goes nothing. Wish me luck, girls...
*More scraping, followed by a loud bang, gunshots, laser discharges, and growling.*
//Recording Ends//